Thanks for all your great comments on the last post. I saw that a few people misunderstood me, so let me clarify two points. Sorry I was so muddy-tongued.
1. With the numbered list, my point was that, in my opinion, none of those things are true.
2. I do not believe that YA lit and nothing else should be taught in schools. In fact, I don't understand the either/or mentality in any instance. One must study classics or nothing. One must love young adult literature or nothing. Why? Who says? This confuses me. My whole point is--variety! Spice! Limitless possibilities!
And now...a guest post! I sent the article to my very dear, very old, very smart friend Rebecca. We celebrated New Year's Eve together in 1989, her birthday in 2011, and everything in between. She taught middle school English and now has been a high school English teacher for many years. She's one of those teachers who parents cross their fingers and hope their kids get, whether advanced or barely speaking English. This is her response.
"What an interesting article. It is a vivid reflection of a popular philosophy girding the teaching of Language Arts and literature in our country. However, I find it telling that the author must dangle the carrot of "fellatio and anal sex" to get that classical reading horse to move along. That said, as a Language Arts instructor, I believe in a heavy diet of variety. For one, it is important to me that my students are undaunted by the written word. I want them to have a sense of confidence in their ability to navigate the many waters of the written word without fear of drowning. Building confidence comes from providing students with multiple opportunities to interact with multiple types of text. There is something powerful in watching someone discover the fluidity of language and the many artful ways it can be used to express "truth". Further, I can't begin to put into words the honor of being there when a student "conquers" their first novel or comes back for a second helping after reading a great story. Sadly, forcing Shakespeare on an emerging reader does little in building confidence or independence. At its worse, it turns the reader off to the written word entirely (regardless of the number of times a bawdy line or raunchy lyric is pointed out).
"Once a student has developed a proficiency and love of reading, it is so much fun to explore more "complex" texts. However, text complexity is not determined by the age of the story. Nor is it determined by how many elite academics say it is important. Instead, I think it is determined by narrative style, variance in characterization, theme, layers of irony, the use of figurative language or allusions to other texts (just to name a few elements we discuss in class). My students are exposed to digital texts, graphic novels, poetry, vignettes, children's stories, Y.A. fiction and excerpts from a few classics. As we read through the various texts, we discuss genre style, effective storytelling techniques and the "relevance" of the text in both historic and modern contexts. In short, we build a relationship with the text.
"I think a teacher is doing her students a disservice if she fails to address all the creative and aesthetic ways the written word can be used to enrich our lives. In the end, I like to believe that my students are "elevated" and truths are revealed, in part, because we do not narrow ourselves as readers. I have no problem with the article author's passion for "classical" literature. But, I fear he is misguided and antiquated in his thinking if he truly believes it is the ONLY text that can artfully expose human truth. There exists a graveyard of former readers whose love of reading was strangled by this singular perspective, I don't want my students to join them."